Written by The Business Journal Staff
Angel Gilberto Garcia-Avalos, 29, of Michoacan, Mexico, was charged in a criminal complaint with causing the Cedar fire that continues to burn in Kern and Tulare counties. He was also charged in two separate counts of making false statements to U.S. Forest Service officers.
The complaint alleges that the Cedar Fire started on Aug. 16, when Garcia was driving off-road in the Sequoia National Forest. As he was driving on an unimproved dirt road off of Highway 155, the complaint alleges his car got stuck while attempting to drive over a berm and rolled back, hitting a tree. The muffler and catalytic converter of the vehicle then sparked dead grass, causing the fire near the Cedar Creek Campground, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The complaint also alleges that Garcia lied to Forest Service law enforcement officers on the day the fire started, saying his vehicle had been stolen after he parked it on the side of Highway 155. He lied again when questioned two weeks later, according to authorities.
If convicted, Garcia faces a maximum statutory penalty of six months in custody and a $5,000 fine for each count. He may also be ordered to pay restitution to the U.S. Forest Service for the costs of the fire. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court.